A predictable downturn in the mood of Pennsylvania voters amid the coronavirus pandemic and a slumping economy spells trouble for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, according to a new poll.
And former Vice President Joe Biden benefits: The Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday finds him leading Trump 50% to 41% among registered voters in the state.
Trump’s personal favorability and job-performance ratings haven’t shifted much since the last F&M poll in January: 42% have a strongly or somewhat favorable view of the president, while 56% have a somewhat or strongly unfavorable view. And 38% of voters think Trump is doing an excellent or good job overall, compared with 61% who say he is doing only a fair or poor job — the same split as in the January poll.
But voters are worried. The pandemic leaped to the top of the list of voter concerns, with 32% naming it the most important issue facing the state. Just 29% think Trump is doing an excellent or very good job handling the pandemic and 49% say he is failing. Fourteen percent rank Trump’s performance in the crisis as average and 8% see him as below average.
Pollster G. Terry Madonna cites the coronavirus as “one of the principal reasons” Biden holds a lead in the survey.
Concern is also reflected in how people see their personal finances. Just one in five said they are better off than they were a year ago, down from one in three in January.
The poll of 667 voters — 324 Democrats, 271 Republicans, and 72 independents — was conducted from July 20 to Sunday, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 points. It is broadly in line with other recent Pennsylvania surveys that have showed Biden opening up a sizable lead against Trump. An average of Pennsylvania presidential polling compiled by the website Real Clear Politics puts Biden ahead by 6.2 percentage points.
Trump, asked about polling during a visit to North Carolina on Monday, said his campaign had its own surveys that show him leading in Pennsylvania and some other battleground states. His campaign would not release that polling.
Biden gets a boost from the antipathy many voters feel toward Trump. Among Trump supporters, 78% say their vote is about the president, not opposition to Biden. Among Biden supporters, 55% say their vote is more against Trump than for the Democratic contender.
“The hostility to Trump among Democrats is unusually strong,” Madonna said. “I mean, it’s visceral. Trump’s voters are more enthusiastic about voting for him than Biden’s voters” are about him.
The poll also found no third-party candidates stirring interest, unlike in 2016. And Trump is hurting with independent voters, with 62% rating his job performance as fair or poor.
“Most incumbents who won reelection have been 40% or higher among independents,” Madonna said.
Biden has also benefited so far from a lack of public scrutiny in a campaign limited by the pandemic, Madonna said. That’s left the focus all on Trump.
“I’m not saying that Trump can’t win,” said Madonna, noting the Nov. 3 election was still 96 days away. “I’m just saying he’s got his work cut out for him, given this intensive polarization that exists.”